The Las Vegas Raiders appear to be restructuring their defense around young star Maxx Crosby, who recently signed a massive long-term extension. In addition, they have been connected to Tyrann Mathieu, the best safety currently on the market.
But they’ve also released some names on the defensive side of the ball, like Cory Littleton. So with all of those moves, it was only a matter of time before they brought in a free agent signing to help anchor their defense alongside Crosby.
That signing has reportedly come, as the Raiders have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Bilal Nichols, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 16, 2022
Nichols slots in as a vital depth piece on the Raiders defensive line, next to Crosby, Yannick Ngakoue, Johnathan Hankins, and Solomon Thomas. What was once a defined weakness for the Raiders is slowly becoming a relatively strong unit.
Nichols is entering his fifth NFL season at age 25. Selected in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, it took Nichols little time getting his feet under him. He had three sacks and two forced fumbles despite starting just six games his rookie season.
While 2021 is considered his best season, he has been a quality contributor on a top-end Bears defense for several years now and could improve even more with a more significant role in the Raiders’ defensive scheme.
In 2021, Nichols had 51 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and a pass deflection while starting in 15 of 17 Bears games. In his lone playoff appearance in 2020, Nichols had seven tackles.
Raiders restructure contracts
The Raiders restructured two contracts on the offensive end to open up some more financial flexibility this offseason. Left tackle Kolton Miller and running back Kenyan Drake agreed to restructure their deals to open up over $14 million in cap space.